I was excited to be able to attend the Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012 U.S. Forum last week in Redmond where 100 educators from 25 states showcased their innovative classroom projects to vie for a spot to compete at the Partners in Learning Global Forum later this year. The event is not just a competition, but a celebration of teachers who are making a difference in their local communities and helping their students prepare and expect more for their future. It’s also a great professional development opportunity as educators receive not only some technology training, but the opportunity to network, learn from and collaborate with like-minded peers who inspire others to scale change in education.
I was impressed with all of the U.S. projects I was able to see. It was great to see classroom projects tackling real-world problems like oil spills, unemployment, diabetes, disaster response, wildlife and more that help students build 21st century skills they’ll need for the workplace. The examples of creative uses of technology in learning represented the Pre-K–12 spectrum and included great ideas for blended learning, student video game design, professional development, flipped classrooms with students teaching their peers, and improving communications skills for those with autism and other special learning needs.
Check out the video below and my interviews with three teachers. Michael Braun teaches at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, and he’s using Touch Develop to get kids interested in computer science by teaching them how to develop mobile phone apps. You can learn more about his learning activity on the Partners in Learning Network here. Vince Interrante from Mineola Middle School (New York) and Robyn Hrivnatz from Lamar CISD (Texas) teamed up on a rocket bottle project that spanned more than 225 students at five schools on three continents! You can learn how they made this happen here.
The U.S. team will be sending 16 finalists to the Global Forum in Prague, Czech Republic on November 28-December 1. The 9th annual Partners in Learning Global Forum is the culmination of local and regional events that reach nearly 200,000 participants from over 115 countries. This year’s forum will gather 500 participants, including the most innovative global educators, school leaders, education leaders, and government officials.
For updates on the event and how to participate in the future, follow our #pilgf Twitter hash tag and our Facebook page.
Earlier this year, I blogged about the value of identity and the work Microsoft is doing with the Lake Washington School District to deploy the “Geneva” platform to provide students, parents, teachers and staff easier access to education materials and information. Since then, “Geneva”…now officially called Windows Identity Foundation (WIF)…is out of beta and has been released broadly for download to everyone. For those who don’t know, Windows Identity Foundation is a new extension to the Microsoft .NET Framework that helps developers build claims-aware applications that externalize user authentication from the application, improving developer productivity, enhancing application security, and enabling interoperability.
The video here is a good case study and shows tremendous progress with where we’ve come and a real practical example of how a school is using identity with different role types, how it integrates with its netbook strategy, and the way in which they’ve connected to joint synchronized calendaring across the district. I think it is a good primer for schools to think about with regards to building an identity strategy on extendable platforms like SharePoint that they can integrate with. It also highlights a partner solution from Intand, which provides a seamless integration with SharePoint and the backend experience on the WIF platform to help with calendaring across the school district.
This solution is just not only appropriate for K12, but higher education too, because the identity environment, the need for shared presence and the number of role types have actually increased in higher education because you’ve got faculty, administrators, students, facilities people, security on campus, as well as even alumni…so in many cases the role-based provisioning and security of Windows Identity Foundation will enable scenarios in higher education.
I had the true honor of attending the graduation of the first incoming class of students at the Philadelphia School of the Future. It was an inspiring day celebrating a group of amazing students who have defied odds, embraced change, and overcome many obstacles to deliver…as we expected…an amazing result. All School of the Future graduating seniors have college or continuing education plans. But perhaps even more important…all students graduate with a recognition that they’ve only achieved one step…they EXPECT MORE of themselves, their education and their future. In a neighborhood where for some staying off drugs or out of jail is seen as an accomplishment…all 117 graduates face their life after high school with an optimism for what’s ahead and an understanding of their potential, and as Chief Learner Rosalind Chivis remarked at the close of the ceremonies...and a knowledge that “life is what YOU make it”.
As I reflect back on the opening of the school more than 4 years ago…in addition to the happy and exuberant incoming Freshmen…I most remember and often reflect on the parents and guardians who joined us for the opening celebration. They had the insight to recognize the opportunity their children had been given and foresight to recognize that lives would change as a result. I saw many of the same parents during the ceremony…and while all realized their initial impressions were right on the mark…what was unexpected was the scope of changes. It started by bringing a computer into their homes and the resulting influence on other children in the household and the caregivers themselves. It blossomed into a deeper appreciation of learning and skills development, and it culminated it an expectation across the family that things can be better. We started with a question of “what if”…we end with a question of “what’s next”.
There were no computers on display at the ceremony…no PowerPoint slides to run through or richly crafted videos to watch…only accomplished graduates, proud parents, glowing educators, and real JOY. In many ways this mirrors the ultimate goal of the school…one that I think has often been misunderstood. The school has never set out to deliver on the potential for technology to transform learning…but to demonstrate how transforming learning can help deliver on the potential of all students. We didn’t seek to bring all sorts of innovative technology into the school to marvel at the innovation and admire the fancy gadgets. Instead we worked alongside a vast community of partners and leaders to imagine what’s possible when you think holistically about change, enable broad transformation, shift expectations for all, and support the work with technology. This is the kind of model than can scale broadly…and enrich EVERY school…create a new norm.
I am humbled by the dedication and commitment of the staff of educators at the school who have truly made a difference in so many ways. I’m appreciative of the efforts of a supportive community that has truly embraced the school and helped drive it’s success. But most of all, I’m excited for what lies ahead for the 117 students receiving diplomas. My hope is they will set an example for their peers and never stop raising the bar for themselves, and in doing so, permanently lift the bar for those who follow.
Sharing my blog post published today on the Microsoft On The Issues blog here...
This week, people from around the world will gather at two education events in London – the Education World Forum (EWF) and the BETT trade show – to discuss how technology can help improve the state of education in the United Kingdom and globally. The role of technology in education has been a hot topic of late, sparked in large part by the Waiting for Superman documentary in October, the New York Times article on technology and attention spans in November and the Newsweek interview with Bill Gates about seniority-based pay.
In the midst of all this debate, I believe one thing is clear – successful economies rely on an innovative and well-prepared workforce. This requires that students are equipped with 21st century skills such as collaboration, communications, creative thinking, problem solving, digital literacy and citizenship. And to engage and prepare our students, we need high-quality teachers who are, themselves, adept at future-ready skills. Underlying all of that, we need to make sure that the teachers and students have access to the technology that will help each of them learn and grow.
This week at EWF and BETT, Microsoft will look at the critical issue of how 21st century skills are taught and acquired, and roll out new ways to provide access to great technology at a low cost – all so that students can be best prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow. To help advance the teaching and acquisition of 21st century skills, this week we are announcing:
Microsoft has also been helping students, educators and schools get access to technology at low costs in a number of ways through ‘Shape the Future’ agreements – which have helped 42 countries bring technology access to more than 6 million students, educators and citizens – and with great technologies such as Live@edu and Windows Multipoint Server. To further improve technology access in schools, this week we are also announcing:
The tough reality is that there isn’t a magic bullet for solving the complex challenges involved in equipping students with the skills they need for the jobs of the future – but I believe that this week’s news shows we continue to make steady progress in understanding the issues involved, and providing real solutions.
I am catching up on sharing some video interviews with you from a recent partner event. Today’s conversation is with Alvin Crawford from Schoolnet.
Schoolnet solutions take a platform approach using Microsoft technologies, primarily SharePoint Server, to build an end-to-end experience for all different user types and schools. They understand that parents, teachers, administrators and students have different needs in terms of the types of information they need to see, as well as access rights, and they create an experience that is seamless. They’ve also given a lot of thought behind the design and learned a lot from social networking and community sites so the environment is much friendlier to the audience type…if a teacher is accessing a data dashboard, they see tools and resources that are for a teacher. Schoolnet also does a good job connecting data and content together to offer students collaboration opportunities.
Alvin and I had a good conversation about trends in education…in particular how to use data dashboards to drive action and improve and inform instruction.
Let me know what you think...
It’s going to be an exciting year here at Microsoft as we are introducing a wave of new innovative software. This fall, we are helping institutions and IT professionals optimize PC environments, increase productivity and expand innovation in the classroom with Windows 7, consolidate servers with Windows Server 2008 R2 and unify communications with Exchange Server 2010.
By now you’ve probably seen “The New Efficiency” – it’s both the theme for the product launches and it is the powerful concept behind a new way of thinking about IT…cost savings, innovation and productivity can come together to deliver operational improvements while amplifying the impact of your people. For education, this new efficiency requires some reinvention in many ways. The expectations of schools and its constituents are growing. What schools really have to do is prioritize investments and shift the ways they use existing resources as opposed to just doing more with the same resources. Basically, schools need to make different bets on how they serve content, and how they invest more in education, etc. as opposed to just squeezing more out of the same exact investment and strategy. Be sure to check out our virtual launch events here and here.
Since Windows 7 was first released to schools with academic licensing agreements in August, many K12 and high education schools around the globe are in the process of deploying the next generation operating system and experiencing the benefits. Check out my earlier blog post here introducing Windows 7 to schools.
As part of its Digital Education Revolution initiative, the New South Wales Department of Education and Training is in the process of rolling out tens of thousands of netbooks to students and teachers to bring innovation to teaching and learning, and to equip students with the necessary tools they need to further their education and prepare them for the digital workforce. Check out their video below.
West Hatch High School, in Essex, England was the first school in Europe to fully deploy Windows 7. And here in the United States, San Diego Unified School District, Catherine Cook School in Chicago, Hoover City Schools in Alabama, Kentucky Community and Technical College System and many more are investing in Windows 7.
I’m excited to share their stories with you and more in the coming months. Please share how Windows 7 and the other new products are allowing you to transform the teaching and learning experience in your schools. If you haven't started exploring yet, you can download free trial software for Windows 7 here, Windows Server 2008 R2 here and Exchange Server 2010 here.
If you haven’t already checked out the new Internet Explorer 9 beta…first off, I encourage you to go to http://www.beautyoftheweb.com/ to explore the potential for the new web browser.
I've often talked about the potential for technology in reading, and we've seen the potential for digital reading on devices like the iPad and Kindle, and even software tools for the PC like Blio. These are great examples of creating convenient and automated views of digital reading, rich pictures, note-taking, etc…but in many ways both the presentation of the information and the experience is not transformational. It provides an online or a technology-based translation of an analog form.
I believe this a great trend and certainly long overdue, but in many ways it's not the future of digital reading. I think the future of digital reading will be much more reflective on the identity of the person reading. It will be much more multimodal in terms of it will include input from others, ability to aggregate a whole host of information sources, as well as authorship, provide experiential and learning activities…and it will learn as you go in terms of it will take feedback and modify text, etc..
Increasingly, reading environments won't be delivered in static electronic book forms, but online experiences that really take advantage of the Web. We're starting to see some of this trend with the IE9 beta, which demonstrates the potential for HTML5 to really create new and innovative Web experiences. One of the things about IE9 is that it creates the ability to run websites and experiences that you visit in an app-like form…so you don't feel like you're in a Web page, you feel like you're in an application.
I think the Associated Press website on IE9 with HTML5 is the coolest of the sites. You can check out their AP News Lab “Timeline Reader” here and see the screen shot on the right. It’s a good example of making content come alive with a very rich navigation experience, multimode coming in, and the ability to drill down and get visualization experiences. Scientific American has built a really good interactive learning environment on the human brain. Another great example is Naver, which is a digital news archive (picture bottom left) for a number of different newspapers in Korea…it is interesting to navigate and select different stories from different papers to put in a scrapbook to read later…all powerful examples of the potential of HTML5.
I think HTML5 represents the future of the way in which publishers will build cross-platform devices, so as opposed to building content or books specific for one device…it also puts the future of the Web back into view. There has been lots of discussion around whether the Web is dead. The answer is I think far from it. The Web is evolving to become much broader and with the ability to create much more rich experiences. So, as opposed to writing applications for specific platforms, folks can use standard HTML5 based tools to build experiences that will run on other browsers.
I'm excited about what the future holds…and if these examples are indication of what's to come, it will become a huge platform for publishers, content providers, and companies to build quality and engaging education experiences that will support a range of technology devices.
What do you think?
When I met with Houston ISD recently, it was exciting to reconnect with a U.S. school district that's in a very rapid and aggressive mode of change. Driven by Greg Valdez, the Chief Technology Officer, Greg and his team have not only a vision for technology's impact in Houston, but they are really thinking holistically on the ways in which the district and the learning environment can be improved.
I often talk to school leaders who are driving plans at a district level and cascading them down to principals…as opposed to bringing principals into the conversation early. Greg is doing well at reversing this trend. I met with some leading principals in the district and it was refreshing to see a leader like Greg bring all the constituents together, to be really working very closely with the schools, to be thinking about the leaders and really bringing the principals into the leadership decision-making and the thinking in the school districts early. He is very open and transparent.
To improve education for Houston students, they want to tie education achievement to workforce employability and skills readiness more aggressively…doing more things to get students excited about relevant work experiences, internships, project-based experiences. They want to do a much better job with digital content and eliminate books and use digital textbooks, as well as create and share their digital content. And then they want to empower schools and school leaders, like principals, to drive change, to create the right schools for the right environments, to challenge students and teachers to not accept the status quo, and to be better.
They also recognize there is need for public and private partnerships, so they are reaching out to companies like Microsoft and others to help them with not only guidance and advice but to also help with resources. I’ve blogged before about the importance of these partnerships, and if this is a strategy your school, district, state or country is pursuing, you should definitely read our whitepaper for best practices and lessons learned based on real case studies and partnerships we have pursued.
Houston has a bold, long term vision and I would say Houston is one to watch going forward as a school district. I look forward to seeing more from Houston ISD in the future.
During my travels, I’m often asked for ideas of great places online for teachers to share best practices, learn from peers and get help. There are many wonderful resources on the web for sure, and we’ve worked hard to make the Microsoft Innovative Teachers Network (ITN) a destination place for sharing lesson plans, ideas and inspiration. It’s a place where teachers can give others a peek into their classroom, seek advice on challenges their facing and show off a great new project.
The US ITN network is part of a worldwide effort to connect teachers and uncover best-of-breed teaching, technology and content best practices. ITN features three types of professional learning resources: Articles of Interest, Guides and Materials, and Research Papers. There are Communities where educators can discuss similar topics of interest, create virtual project teams, participate in the peer review of content, and much more. Additionally, one of the coolest new resources is the Virtual Classroom Tours, which allow you to experience and replicate the classroom successes of other teachers.
If you’re already a part of the network…check out the new changes and share feedback. If you’re not familiar with ITN…now’s a great time to join as the version of the network just went live (http://us.itn.partnersinlearning.com).
Even before the Department of Education released the final rules for how to apply to the Race to the Top funds last week, schools around the United States and the world have been pushing the envelope and testing new methods for how to raise student performance with innovative new teaching practices. It’s exciting to see even the current issue of TIME Magazine call out The School of One in New York City as one of “The 50 Best Inventions of 2009.” (Read my earlier blog post on School of One for how Microsoft is partnering on the project.)
I talked to Neil Richards with HunterStone recently about trends in education and how new learning styles and form factors play into the transformation of schools. HunterStone is one of our partners and provides e-learning and IT tools for Microsoft environments. Take a look and listen to the video below and let me know what you think.
How are you bringing change to your schools and classrooms? Are stimulus funds making an impact?
Earlier this month, I traveled to the United Arab Emirates and spent time in Dubai and Sharjah. I was impressed with the region’s beauty and magnificent architecture. With regards to education, the emirates are looking at worldwide examples from the U.S. to Victoria, Australia where they are building six model schools in order to push the envelope with regards to learning styles, assessment, and using technology.
I found an overall general appreciation for the arts. When I met the ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi, he stressed the importance of building community and really using education as a cornerstone for not only creating arts, but as a way to build a connection to the community and the culture in the area. And, certainly, there's a focus on employability and getting students prepared for careers like engineering and medicine, etc., but I think education is recognized as a differentiator for quality of life.
I think it’s an important concept because the folks I met with referred to education as sort of a foundation of the arts…that if you don't have a good education system, you don't really have a good arts environment or culture that's created from it. So it becomes a foundation for creating culture as well as quality of life for the citizens.
I saw the University of Sharjah and had the opportunity to go through the student union at the American University of Sharjah and sit in a computer lab. Like many other institutions I've visited…students are excited and there's a dynamic atmosphere with students huddling around computers, getting access to the Internet, sharing, squeezing each other off the printers, etc. I think there is huge opportunity here for creating a one-to-one access program for students, and really think about some of the employability tools and ways to create access through programs like DreamSpark and IT Academy, which the American University of Sharjah is using already. They’ve done a great job focusing on teaching and learning, now they are recognizing they need to make the full picture work more efficiently and effectively as well across their very large campuses.
In the picture below from left to right: Dr. Amr Abdel-Hamid, Special Advisor to the Ruler of Sharjah for Higher Education; the ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi; Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Worldwide Education; Azza El Shinnawy, Microsoft Education Lead for the Gulf.
I was excited to go to Russia recently and learn more about the education system. There are plenty of places around the world where technology accessibility or access to education and reform are meeting in the middle...places where students and teachers are starting to get more and more access to technology…and it's becoming much more common to support education on the periphery, and the school system is also starting to recognize the need for broader reform. And I think those two trends are converging to create lots of potential and opportunity in Russia.
Russia has a long way to go with regards to reforming the education system around some of the core themes that we see around the world…use of data more aggressively, connection to employability and workforce readiness skills, use of electronic content and curriculum. Certainly there's lots of opportunity there. Here's a recent interview with the president of Microsoft Russia for a view on how we see the potential for IT in the country.
Ironically, Russia in the early '60s was one of the first countries to really integrate technology into the curriculum, particularly in the science and mathematics area. A number of early Russian professors were some of the first to experiment with providing students access to computing power as one example. But the reality is that there has been a lull over the last several years, and due to the economic struggles with Russia in the early '90s there has been an opportunity now to revamp and refresh the school system. Every school in Russia has some level of Internet access, but the problem is that most teachers haven’t been trained in ICT, so there’s some skepticism about the effectiveness of ICT in education. There's a spirit of urgency I sensed from the educators and leaders I talked with…they recognize there is lots of work to do, but really a hope for the potential.
I think Russia is a place where culture and history provide some very obvious clues to what's going on and we see that in the education system. You can actually see it in the traffic. Moscow is a city with significant traffic problems, and part of the problem is due to a growing population and an infrastructure that needs modernization. But part of the reality stems from a cultural preference that individuals have to own their own car and drive their car. And it was not long ago where the privilege of owning a car was not something that everyone had a right to. So, there's a cultural significance rooted in why there is so much traffic in Moscow, and I think that's also connected to some of the history with regards to the education system. But that is changing, and we have some aggressive educators who are thinking about differently, and making tremendous things possible.
I saw a good indication of this optimism during my trip to a high school in the outskirts of Moscow. Yefim Ratchevski is the director of education at school #548 which won the best school in Russia two years ago. Yefim is a true innovator in technology and he is open to modern techniques and technologies to improve student learning outcomes and innovative teaching practices. He's thinking differently about how the school can use data to enhance the learning environment. He's also really starting to recognize the need for blended learning environments in Russia, so creating much more interactive classrooms, thinking about ways in which you can use online courses to provide more choice and flexibility for students, and the reality that the school day is changing.
The more and more I travel around the world and see institutions trying to address challenges…whether it's lack of teachers or courseware or flexibility with regards to physical space, or embracing opportunities to provide a more rich and active curriculum…I think the limits we see in education that will most change over the next five years is this dependency on time and place, where education is rooted in sequential offerings in a specific time that happens in a specific location.
I think in the future blended learning models, much more dynamic curriculum engagement, students who are driving their own learning, will become more commonplace, and schools will optimize around that environment, and certainly Yefim is working to do that in school #548 in Russia. They have dynamic curriculum environments and they are usually Microsoft MultiPoint Server to create not only more access to technology within computer labs, but they're also creating collaborative workspaces for students to engage socially.
With leaders like Yefim, I think Russia is on a good trajectory. They will be able to take a lot of the lessons learned around the world and apply them in a fresh way into the Russian environment, and they have obviously willingness and optimism around the potential for technology to change.
I’m incredibly thankful for the work I get to do and humbled by the importance of our company's focus in education. I am also proud of the impact Microsoft is making. Most notably I’m proud of the commitment of our people...employees, who on their personal time, are making a huge difference.
This story here is a great example of the compassion of Microsoft employees to the issues in education...and the need for focus on supporting girls specifically. Margo Day is the West regional vice president of U.S. Small and Mid-market Solutions and Partners at Microsoft. During a trip last fall to Kenya, she spent some time doing volunteer work with World Vision and was greatly moved and inspired to do something after visiting a primary school and rescue center for girls who had fled their homes to avoid the traditional practice of female genital mutilation.
The work Margo Day has done in Kenya is a shining example of the impact that a group of individuals can make. It also shines light on the need to push for gender equality and education opportunities for all. Every child deserves access to a great education and we need to work locally and globally to ensure inequalities are fought against, the oppression of low expectation is lifted, and every student is empowered to reach their potential.
I’ve been on the road the majority of this month for personal and business travel. I’m in Russia right now, but want to catch you up on my experiences in Puerto Rico.
The best part about my Puerto Rico visit was the amount of student and teacher interaction, as that is something I enjoy the most. During my visit, Microsoft announced an Education Alliance Agreement with the Universidad Metropolitana (UMET) in San Juan focusing on bringing a culture of innovation to the campus and providing the academic community with the latest software and technology skills. In addition to the University joining the Microsoft IT Academy Program, we celebrated the opening of the Microsoft Mobile Development Laboratory (photos below).
Mobile devices have certainly changed lifestyles around the world and new ways to use technology. Exploring and developing mobile applications is a huge opportunity for students who are looking at their careers and future employability. In conjunction with the Imagine Cup, students have been developing mobile applications to compete in the Latin America finals for a chance to go onto Poland…and they have some very different and creative ideas. One application was developed for ride sharing to help with not only lower environmental impact on carbon emissions and autos, but also to help students have outlets for safe driving, saving money, etc. The application is connected to GPS and mobile phones, so students can alert each other when they need a ride and create a social community.
The other mobile project I saw was called “Justice.” It capitalizes on the fact that most citizens have access to a cell phone and a camera…and if you can imagine turning all those cell phones and all those users into eyes and ears for a law enforcement official or an environmental protection official or a municipal government to identify when there is a traffic safety issue or a street lamp that needs repaired…you can put citizens on the alert so they can share and post alerts and track the status.
The students’ professor says the students are so excited about this mobile lab that they don’t want to go home, they want to work through the night because they are so motivated about the work they are doing and the opportunity to compete on the global stage…it’s brought a lot of energy to the learning experience for the students.
I also had the opportunity to meet with the Senate, and talk about ways in which the government is addressing change in education in Puerto Rico. It's great to see them thinking very holistically about embracing and approving resources for teachers, teacher training, and the way in which teachers are valued in Puerto Rico. They're thinking about things like digital access for all citizens and students.
And just like every government, they're thinking about the ways in which you can use data to impact learning outcomes and success rates. It’s great to see Puerto Rico open to taking lessons learned from the U.S. and other parts of the world and really thinking about very important issues.
I also meet with the Department of Education and visited a high school…I’ll share more on that in my next post.
One of the most exciting trends happening in education today is the evolution of digital publishing. Publishers around the world are starting to embrace not only new reading modalities but new form factors and devices to create both interactive and enriching experiences for students and educators.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is on the forefront of this and is working towards creating an engaging opportunity for educators and students to leverage content in exciting new ways.
Tony Clancy, Vice President of Technology Strategy and Architecture at HMH, and I had a great conversation about the potential, and the work that HMH is working on to deliver this in the coming years.
As schools and teachers continue to use digital assets for collaboration, homework assignments, and more, learning management systems and tools such as Moodle have grown in popularity in classrooms.
ELEARNINGFORCE manages to take many of the same features and tools requested by customers and built a solution around Microsoft SharePoint as a toolset. This not only provides greater range of functionality and power but overall cost savings as it relates to administrative costs, management, etc.
Kelvin Hicks and I had an opportunity to talk about his thoughts on some of the broader trends as it relates to technology and education, and the growing role collaboration is having on the education process in classrooms and virtually. Take a listen…
As part of the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) this week in Washington, D.C., I attended the Global Education Competitiveness Summit (GECS). The purpose of the event was to start a dialogue about international assessments, to discuss how to get students in the US to perform better on benchmark tests to ensure they are prepared to compete globally, and to look at some of the models of best practices around the world like Finland and Singapore. The meeting was sponsored by Microsoft, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and the Education Commission of the States (ECS), and dozens of education, policy and business leaders from the states of Tennessee, Michigan, Missouri, Louisiana and more contributed to the discussion.
After listening and participating, I see a couple of urgent actions for our country to take in order to reform education in the US.
Need for softer skills. We have to start with embracing 21st century competencies. We’ve been so focused on standardized tests and assessments that we’ve undervalued that broader development of competencies. For example, in Singapore, when they think about education transformation, the language they use is that want to build more confident learners, they want to build more creative thinkers. This generation of high school students will supposedly have 10 or more jobs in their lifetime. The workforce is rapidly changing, so this notion about being much more nimble on competencies is important. I think other countries have come to this realization faster than the US has in terms of understanding and taking action. I think development of these softer skills are important in terms of how we can set aspirations for students and make school much more relevant to work and the skills kids need to compete over their lifetime.
Teachers as icons. Where do we start change in our education system? There’s a lot of focus on teachers…how do we better prepare teachers and how can we get the best teachers? In other countries, like Finland, the role of a teacher is universally respected, and the best and the brightest become teachers. In the US, we need to show much more effort on making the role of a teacher something we look up to, like we do with doctors, lawyers, policemen, etc. We need to think about the teaching profession as the backbone of our country and better embrace teachers in our culture. In other countries, citizens think the role of a teacher is something to aspire to, that’s not always true here in the US.
IT assessments for systems, not teachers. When we talk about education transformation and the role of technology in that, I think colleges of teaching are being thrown under the bus when people say teachers aren’t trained to embrace technology. I don’t think that’s true. If you go to any college of teaching, you’re going to see next generation learning students. They’re going to be taking e-courses, collaborating online, etc. I think when we talk about technology or IT assessment, we shouldn’t be measuring teachers’ skills on whether they can use a browser or Word document…we should be thinking about IT assessment and asking if the school is IT-ready. Do they support digital curriculum? Are they personalizing learning? Are they assessing students and progress more regularly than once a year when kids take assessment tests? Daily reflection, change and adjustments are needed. We should put more focus and rigor on IT assessments for systems and schools, not for our teachers specifically. From a learning context, schools should be assessed on the ability to serve curriculum, to do personalized learning, etc.
We have to take action now. The US used to be the world’s leader in education and our students at the top of assessment tests. We’ve witnessed other countries change and forge ahead of us. We can’t lose a generation of students to transform. We have to transform more aggressively and more holistically.
Michael Golden also posted on the GECS event and gives details on our collaboration with Cisco and Intel to transform global assessments.
As part of the 2009 Recovery Act, $7.2 billion dollars is being allocated to expand broadband Internet access across the U.S. The dream is to make sure every home has a broadband connection, but even the Federal Communications Commission admits the $7 billion is not enough to wire everyone. Microsoft believes connecting schools, libraries and hospitals first will generate the quickest, most impactful and most equitable distribution of social benefits. Our Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie, called on the FCC to take this direction. Marc Berejka, Senior Director of Technology Policy and Strategy, reinforced our company’s position in a blog post here.
The fuel for our country’s economic recovery will be provided by innovation…and our future, in many respects, is in the hands (and minds) of students in our classrooms, universities and libraries. Prioritizing broadband for schools and libraries will connect to the heart of our communities and help shift expectations and aspiration of the impact technology can have on reaching its potential for improving and enriching learning.
While the majority of schools have basic Internet access, it’s often limited, slow and not capable of handling the technology applications our administrators and educators need to ensure our students are prepared for the 21st century workplace and life. As we continue to expand use of digital learning environments to deliver personal and adaptive experiences for our students, the need to ensure rich connectivity in and out of the classroom becomes paramount. Digital natives have an expectation of an “always on” and “always connected” environment…and our commitment to deliver needs to address not only access everywhere…but access for ALL.
Digital curriculum, virtual classrooms, etc., will create opportunities for rich collaboration and enable our teachers to serve the needs of individual students. These experiences and opportunities will be created by careful rigor, planning and holistic thinking….but supported by integrated and flexible technology and access to broadband.
As we embrace the Federal stimulus as a source of confidence and optimism…the need to start by resourcing our schools and libraries…to support our country’s greatest resource…our children…becomes clear. This SETDA report provides more information on the state of broadband in our schools, key recommendations, and district, community and state models for broadband implementation.
Earlier this year, the United States Congress voted to celebrate Computer Science Education Week to promote computer science education in the US. This week (6-12 December) is the inaugural year and schools and teachers can find a lot of great resources at the official CSEdWeek web site here: http://www.csedweek.org/. Microsoft is a proud sponsor and to help celebrate we’ve compiled a rich set of information, videos and links for educators and students, featuring software, opportunities and success stories here: http://research.microsoft.com/csew/.
With the current tough economic climate, the importance of education is taking front stage around the world. It has become part of the global agenda, not only because of the need to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, but the need to encourage optimism in countries by creating opportunities for jobs and re-skilling of workers to enable innovation and new businesses in the countries. So the need for quality education has never been more important…and the opportunities for using technology to enhance learning and to enable opportunities for personalized learning experiences has never been greater. An interesting op-ed in the Huffington Post this morning from our own Rick Rashid, Marie Klawe and others about how kids need to know how to do more than simply turn on a computer and play video games, how curriculum needs to change, and how we can share our best practices and progress.
It’s timely and appropriate that we celebrate National Computer Science Education Week this week to showcase the value of technology and creating job opportunities with technology. This is an area Microsoft believes deeply in. And programs like DreamSpark, Students 2 Business and the Imagine Cup are all great examples of venues Microsoft provides to enable students to get access to curriculum, technology and support to explore careers and IT. For educators, our Expressions Web site here is a good resource for tutorials and lesson plans for web design.
A recent offering Microsoft is really proud of is BizSpark which enables students, and really anybody, to start and launch businesses using Microsoft technology provided at no cost 3 years. This has created huge opportunity to excite new entrepreneurs. Increasingly technology is a component of every business so we’ve seen this as an acceleration path for the beginnings of new businesses and that will help revitalize the economies around the world.
What more can we be doing to excite kids about careers and learning more about computer science? What support can we lend to teachers, administrators and schools?
Help celebrate World Teachers’ Day…there is still time left in the day to express your appreciation or admiration and give thanks to a teacher. UNESCO designated October 5th annually as World Teachers' Day to mark the anniversary of the 1966 signing of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers which addresses teacher policies, rights and responsibilities.
Whether you are a student, a parent, an administrator or a community member, you probably have reason to be grateful for a teacher that has impacted your life. When I think about the biggest influences in my life, teachers are the first to come to mind. Teachers inspire us to become life-long learners and challenge us to solve tough problems. They provide us with guidance when we need help and enable us to achieve our goals.
There are 59 million teachers providing instruction to 1.4 billion students around the world. Here at Microsoft, we work hard to listen to the needs and understand the challenges educators and schools face, and hope that we can provide technology, training and support to best assist you in shaping the future of our society. Technology is becoming an increasingly central tool to help educators create exciting class projects, personalize learning scenarios, and share best practices and lesson plans with peers around the world. That is why we work diligently every day to create solutions to empower teachers and faculty to reach their students in effective and engaging ways. We are committed to helping advance the teaching profession in the 21st century. Let us know what we can do to make you successful…and in the meantime, thank you!
As technology in higher education continues to evolve and become more mission critical to operations across systems and learning environments…administrators are seeking new ways to evolve their current platforms. They’re also looking to embrace cloud technologies, mobile devices, as well as creating new opportunities for faculty and students to leverage technology.
One of our education partners, SunGard, is working through new ways to not only think globally around technology solutions but to create a balance of existing and emerging technology systems to create opportunities for higher education to move forward.
Brian Knotts, Senior Vice President, Global Architecture, at SunGard shared his thoughts with me in a great conversation featured here in this video.
I had the pleasure of meeting recently with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, around exploring options to invest in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is an emerging country with a very young labor force…and like many countries around the world, looking to explore opportunities for emerging technologies and how technology’s role can drive impact in education as part of their Digital Bangladesh initiative. It’s exciting to see hope for a nation that’s growing with an economy that’s being built on driving innovation and new industries and rooted in the foundation of education transformation.
There are more than a 150 million people in Bangladesh, the 7th largest population, which I was surprised by. The average age of the labor force is 23-years old, which is one of the youngest workforces in the world. They are well positioned with regards to economic expansion as noted by its listing as one of the “Next Eleven” potential largest economies of the 21st century.
Bangladesh has a female Prime Minister and a progressive government which has wide support, and they’ve been very good about working with the U.S. and building relationships with companies and the administration. With the Digital Bangladesh initiative, the Prime Minister is working to improve core infrastructure in the country like roads and transportation, but also recognizes the value in education. Like a lot of countries, they’re exploring individual technology devices for each student, looking for opportunities to train people in new skills, and extend digital content. There are some interesting write-ups here and here on how the country is trying to meet the challenge.
I am inspired to explore future partnerships with Bangladesh and help in their efforts to modernize and transform education, and help students in the country realize their potential.
My video interviews with some of the U.S. Imagine Cup winners are now posted (watch below!). The three brothers from Team MultiPoint Web talk about their winning project designed to let multiple students simultaneously use the same computer to learn, and why they are so excited to head to the World Finals in Egypt in July. Team Special Child shares details about their project created to provide assistance and organization to the adoption process. And Team Mango Bunnies shares their experience being the only all-girls team at Imagine Cup and the importance of getting young women and girls interested in technology.
Reflecting back, it was amazing to see these technology solutions were designed not by CEOs or scientists, but by high school and college students across the US. Their creativity and innovation speaks volumes about the promise of technology to really make a difference in peoples’ lives in the way we think, work, and communicate. This is just a representation of the potential and opportunity found in our classrooms and schools – a potential that if nurtured can help build a better world and sustain our future prosperity.
If you too are inspired by the Imagine Cup, a great way to begin to get your students on track to compete in future events is to expose them to the FREE tools Microsoft provides to high school and college students via DreamSpark. Click here for an informative discussion on the DreamSpark offering by Microsoft’s Tammara Edgin.
Technology is having a transformative impact around the world. I wanted to share another great story, this time from the Abu Dhabi Center for Autism in the United Arab Emirates, where children with autism are benefitting from new technology form factors and user interfaces in assistive learning scenarios.
In the video below, you can see how the Maestro speech communication device built on Windows 7 works. It was developed to give individuals of all ages and abilities living with speech and language disabilities the ability to communicate using a sleek, stylish tool that allows the individual to blend in with their peers. Messages are composed by selecting vocabulary on the screen. Depending upon the individual’s abilities and needs, he or she may compose messages using symbols, words, phrases or letters – singularly or in combination.
The Maestro’s InterAACt language framework presents vocabulary in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the child, providing context when needed, and ensures that the child has the right words for every situation. InterAACt not only supports face-to-face interactions, but also communication by e-mail, text message and phone. The Maestro’s hardware also individuals to access the device via touch and alternative access methods such as scanning, eye gaze, joystick and Morse code.
The Maestro communication tool does a great job of removing barriers to communication by giving children with communication challenges the ability to effectively and efficiently communicate with others. And even better…it gives people the ability to independently initiate conversations!
Today, we announced the Alabama Department of Education plans to make CareerForward available to every student in the state as one way high school students can meet the new online learning graduation requirement there starting next year. CareerForward teaches globalization, career planning, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Readying our students for college and the workplace should be our number one priority because the competition for jobs and talent between the U.S. and other countries has never been more intense. You can read more about CareerForward and the resources available to roll it out to your schools and districts in my earlier posts here and here.
According to the latest McKinsey report, forty years ago the U.S. was a leader in high school graduation rates. Today, we rank 18th out of 24 industrialized nations. A January National Governors Association (NGA) report states that we have 3.8 million young adults out there without a diploma, and who are not in school and not working. And as I travel across the country and talk to young people, I am amazed at the number of students who have not declared a major in college – a phenomenon, I think, is uniquely American. We need to get kids thinking about their futures much earlier in life and taking action. CareerForward is just one way students can see the relevance of their school work and how that parlays into their future economic prospects.
Michigan was the first state to adopt an online learning graduation requirement, and the first to deploy CareerForward statewide. More than 18,000 students have committed to taking the course this year. We have a new video showing the success Michigan is having with the program. Check it out below…the students and their teacher are inspirational.